To protest against the ongoing repression by the Belarus government, organizers created a protest as artistic as it was participatory. In one place, at one time, everyone who had gathered in a square had their mobile phone alarms go off at the same time. Some of the phone alarms played music, others played tones, and still others chose to go with the genuine sound of alarm. Unfortunately, some were in fact arrested for the crime of using their mobile phone alarm.
In today’s world, protestors are able to use social networks to inspire their communities to action. Flash mobs were only the beginning. The new protest trend has been dubbed “dilemma actions”. Governments are faced with the dilemma. Do they arrest their citizens for what in most contexts would be normal behavior? Or, do they stand back and watch everyday actions turn into extraordinary actions?
Give the Belarusians credit for not only courage, but also creativity. The “Alarm Clock Action” was preceded by the “Clapping Protest”, in which several thousand people gathered in a Minsk square to clap. Without any anti-government slogans, protesters hoped they would be protected from arrest. The clapping was an ironic comment on the government’s handling of the economy. Later, one government official proposed banning all public displays of clapping. Such logic can only exist in a world of illogic. (Such an upside down world will surely inspire the next work of the Belarus Free Theatre.)
The KadmusArts daily Culture News feed has been posting stories where protest for freedom of expression have intersected with new art. There have been stories on the power of rap in fueling changes in the Arab world, and a festival devoted to protest in Zimbabwe. Most recently, we featured the announcement of a new technology to protect photographers who photograph protests from government identification.
Looking for more protest inspiration? Here are a few others from KadmusArts news:
Penis Protest: A group of Russian artists painted a large penis on a long drawbridge to protest the security service’s handling of security in Russia. Of course, it was most evident when the drawbridge was raised up.
Guns v. Music Protest: Mogadishu radio stations were banned by insurgents from playing any form of music. Stations responded by playing nothing but the sound of gunfire.
Chair protest: To protest the government’s demand that a defendant stand during his political trial, Russian protesters created a chaotic mountain of chairs in front of the courthouse.
Scream Protest: Part art happening and part political protest, Londoners were invited to a museum to take a moment to scream together. In addition to those giving vent to undirected anger, community groups used the occasion to scream for their cause of injustice.
The art of Protest Songs is still one of the most immediately effective and long-lasting.
Of course, there will be a day when everyone is free to create. In the meantime, let’s celebrate those who protest creatively.
- Bill Reichblum